The Dogfish is a species that is a common catch for sea anglers in the United Kingdom, with them not being particular fussy with the bait used, they can be caught on most types of bait.

Lesser Spotted Dogfish

Dogfish, Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Rockfish, Small Spotted Dogfish. Also known as ‘Rock Salmon’.

The dogfish is located in good numbers around the entire coast of the UK but particularly so in the South and South-West of Britain. This fish is also found throughout the Mediterranean, around Northern Afric and Scandinavia.
Dogfish are typically caught by ledgering fishing techniques with a oily fish bait presented near to the seabed.
4lb 15oz
The average dogfish is around 1.5 lbs in weight. Larger dogfish can reach up to around 4lbs
Can reach a length of up to around 3 foot long.
Dogfish will be caught on most baits presented in front of them, but they are particularly keen on strips of oily fish such as mackerel, herring and pilchard.

How to catch a dogfish?

Fishing for dogfish in the UK is not very complicated at all. A simple rig with one or two size 1/0 or 2/0 hooks presented near to the seabed is all that is required. Oily strips of fish are the most common type of bait that are used to catch dogfish, although they are notoriously not very fussy on what they feed on.

They can be caught on most baits as long as they are not extremely large (e.g. a whole mackerel) as their mouths are quite small when in comparison with the size and length of their body.

Can you eat dogfish?

It is possibly to eat a dogfish but this is a species of fish that is not easy to prepare due to the toughness of the skin and difficulty of removing it.

It is possible to soften the skin of a dogfish prior to removing, as featured in the preparation steps below:

  1. Once caught, knock the dogfish on the head and gut immediately. Take care not to puncture any innards whilst doing so.
  2. Rinse the fish once gutted with sea water
  3. Keep the fish cool until you get home (using a cool box or similar item)
  4. Put the dogfish in a bowl and pour over boiling hot water and let it sit in the water for a couple of minutes,/li>
  5. Remove the fish from the boiling water and the skin will not be loosened ready to be removed.
  6. Peel the skin off with a filleting knife. This can also be done by using a pair of pliers and pulling the skin off the meat.

The fish can now be prepared as you wish, but we find the best way to eat dogfish is to dice the meat in to large cubes and dip into a batter mix with spices, then shallow fry in a hot pan with oil. Due to the toughness of the outer meat, the fried fish should keep it’s shape when cooked.

Inspiration from Cornwall

Take a look at the video from the Cornish Shore and Kayak Fisherman (p.s. his YouTube page is definately worth a visit to watch his videos fishing around the Cornwall coasts!)

How to handle a dogfish?

The dogfish has a fairly rough skin and will irritate human skin if it comes in to contact, so there is a fairly simple way to hold the dogfish to minimise the potential for skin irritation. The best way to unhook and control a dog fish is by firmly holding its tail alongside its head. This prevents the fish from thrashing around when being held out of water and can be unhooked very easily.

The treatment of dogfish

The dogfish does not have the best reputation by some sea anglers and many will have a dislike for the species due to a number of issues:

  • The abundance of them in British waters
  • The usual lack of a fight when one is on the line
  • The disruption caused when trying to catch a different fish

The treatment of dogfish can be poor and is something that we discourage here at Reel and Rod. Please do not treat this species of fish badly, remember that you represent anglers as a whole when fishing.

Are there any guidelines when fishing for dogfish?

Currently there are no minimum landing size or maximum quota when fishing for the lesser spotted dogfish in the UK. This is related to the little economic value present in this species of fish and high numbers of fish being continually recorded all year round.

In the future, it is predicted that the value of the dogfish will increase, leading to commercial fishing and potentially for this species to become over fished.

What is the difference between a dogfish and a bull huss?

There is often confusion between the dogfish and the bull huss (also known as the greater spotted dogfish) due to their similarities at a first glance. There are several key differences:

  • Size: The bull huss species will typically reach a greater size (often up to a size of 20 or more pounds in weight). Typically, anything over approximately 5lb is almost certainly a bull huss.
  • Spots: The bull huss has less spots on its body, but they are larger than the dogfish. The dogfish will have lots of smaller spots on the body.
  • Nasal and mouth area: The most accurate way of telling the difference between these two species is to look at the nasal and mouth areas. In the dogfish, the grooves from the nasal openings continue until they reach the mouth, but they do not on the bull huss.
Mermaids Purse from a Dogfish
A photograph of a Mermaids Purse from a Dogfish.
'Mermaid's Purse', Bangor cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Rossographer -

What is a Mermaids Purse?

The chances are if you’ve been to the seaside, you’ll have spotted a Mermaids Purse lying around on the sand or rocks on the shoreline. If you have, then you’ve found a shark!

These leathery pouches are actually egg cases of the lesser spotted dogfish. This fish species lays eggs that are made of collagen and they are nearly always empty as they have come detached from their previous location in the seabed once the dogfish has hatched and left.

The egg cases of dogfish are purse-shaped with long tendrils at the corners that serve to anchor them to structures on the sea floor. Occasionally you may find a Mermaids Purse that has a baby shark in there, so be careful!

Mermaids Purses are also produced by Rays also, with the fatter and squarer type of purse that had horns in the corners being the home to baby rays. The purse type of egg is usually located in the same area as seaweed and the eggs stick to it for up to a year until stormy sea conditions break the egg away from the seaweed and wash them up on the beach.

A Mermaids Purse will typically blend in extremely well with seaweed so keep your eyes open if you are searching for one, you may think it’s a piece of a seaweed but it’s not!